Nuts in Brian Blain’s Tulare and Kern county pecan orchards were completing the month-long process of sizing at the end of August.
“We’re just in the early stages of shell hardening,” he says. “That’s about two weeks later than normal, and about the same time as nuts finished sizing in 2010, which was our latest crop ever. This is going to be another really late crop.”
The Visalia, Calif., grower, who is secretary/treasurer of the California Pecan Growers Association, has been growing pecans for 37 years. Blain Farms’ 1,000 acres of producing pecan trees are mostly Wichita; pollinator varieties are Western Schley and Cheyenne.
Blain expects the San Joaquin Valley harvest to start the first or second week of November. That late start probably won’t affect growers there too much, he notes, but it could be a concern for those in the Sacramento Valley where rainy weather is more likely.
“A delayed crop puts a lot of pressure on them,” he says. “If they get an early winter, they could have problems getting all the nuts off before the ground in the orchards gets too wet to.”
Meanwhile, his pecan crop is developing well, even though production during this off-year appears to be down a little from 2010.
“In terms of crop size, some trees look really good,” Blain says. “For others, the crop looks a little off. The crop is kind of spotty.”
At the end of August he talked with a number of growers at the California Pecan Growers conference. “Most are saying the same thing, but at this point, nut size looks really good.”
Tree health is encouraging, too. “That’s half the battle,” Blain says. “If trees are healthy, with good vigor and no insect problems, as they have been this year, there’s really no reason why nuts won’t fill properly and we’ll have a good quality crop.”
Usually, aphids are the only pest he and other California pecan growers deal, but so far, he notes, they’ve posed no problems. That could change in late September or early October.
“We tend to get a big flush of aphids then,” says. “That’s also when the trees are very susceptible to damage. So, we really have to be on our toes to prevent aphids from becoming a problem — once that happens, it’s usually too late to control them effectively.”
Diseases haven’t been a concern, either this year.
“We’ve had ideal growing conditions,” Blain says. “The mild summer has been very beneficial to the trees. We’ve had good foliage and no heat stress of any kind. Right now, the trees are pretty happy.”